A judge of the Saskatchewan district in Canada has ruled that a farmer consented to sell grains to a buyer after sending a thumb-up emoji when asked to sign a sales agreement. For failing to sell the grains to the customer after using the emoji to indicate a sales agreement, the judge ordered the farmer to pay $62,000.
The customer, Kent Mickleborough, had contacted several grain sellers to buy flax and Chris Achter had responded and agreed to sell 87 metric tons of flax at about $13 per bushel to him – in 2021. Mickleborough drew up a signed agreement and sent it via text to Achter – to confirm the contract. Achter issued a thumb-up emoji to indicate he received the contract, but he refused to deliver the goods after the prices of flax increased shortly after.
Mickleborough sued Achter for failing to deliver the grains after signing the contract. Achter argued that he didn’t sign the contract, but only acknowledged receipt with a thumbs-up emoji. Justice Timothy Keene of the Court of King’s Bench for Saskatchewan ruled that responding to a request to sign a contract with a thumb-up emoji represents an agreement to the terms of the contract.
The judge relied on two main considerations for his ruling. The fact that Mickleborough had been buying grain from Achter for a long time and whenever a buying agreement was texted to the seller, he always responded with “yup,” “ok,” or “looks good.” Keene ruled that since the Achter had always signed his agreements with such one words, the use of emoji would suffice as a signature to a contract.
The judge also relied on the definition of “emoji’ in dictionary.com where it is explained to be an image used to “express assent, approval, or encouragement in digital communications, especially in Western cultures.” He said Achter using a thumb-up emoji signaled agreeing to the terms of the contract and actually signing it over a distance.
He said the farmer breached the terms of the contract by failing to deliver the flax and ordered him to pay CAD 82,200 or USD 62,000.
“This court readily acknowledges that an emoji is a nontraditional means to ‘sign’ a document but nevertheless under these circumstances this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature’ — to identify the signator” as Mr. Achter because he was texting from his cellphone number and “to convey Achter’s acceptance of the flax contract,” Justice Keene stated.